MWILA NTAMBI, Kitwe and CHRISTINE CHIHAME, Kawambwa
ABOUT 20,000 cassava farmers in Luapula Province are by next year expected to benefit from an out-grower scheme being established by
Sunbird Bioenergy Africa Limited in Kawambwa district.
And Kawambwa district commissioner Ivo Mpasa said the project will improve the welfare of many people in the region.
Sunbird Bioenergy Africa chief executive officer Richard Bennett said in a statement yesterday that the programme will provide sustainable feedstock for a bioenergy project that will produce 120 million litres of bio-ethanol each year.
He said this would help contribute to the country’s ethanol-fuel blending programme.
“Funding is available in 2017 for 5,000 out-growers to purchase the necessary planting materials and to pay for land-clearing services. This will be extended to 20,000 out-growers in 2018,” he said.
Mr Bennet said his organisation will formally launch the out-grower programme next month and is targeting an initial 5,000 farmers before the number is scaled up to about 20,000 next year.
He said the out-grower package will include micro-finance, cassava planting materials, agricultural inputs, including fertiliser as well as training and extension services.
Mr Bennet said his organisation will buy all the cassava that will be produced by the out-growers and urged the farmers to produce more.
He said his organisation has chosen cassava as the primary feedstock for the project because it will enable maximum participation by local communities, especially women and the youth.
“When the project is fully implemented, we expect to annually purchase cassava worth US$15 million from the community each year and this will have demonstrable economic impact in the region,” he said.
Mr Bennet said a cassava nursery will be developed to produce high quality cassava as well as increase the yields.
And Mr Mpasa said for a long time, Kawambwa has not had market for cassava and that farmers stand to benefit immensely from the project, which has been allocated 10,000 hectares of land at the Luela farm block.
He was speaking when Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Development Ronald Chitotela toured the project site in Kawambwa on Thursday.
And Mr Chitotela said 2,000 direct jobs will be created once the project is completed and that Government will support projects which are aimed at improving people’s lives.
Sunbird Bioenergy Africa is a developer and operator of large-scale bio-energy projects in sub- Saharan Africa that deliver renewable energy and transportation fuels and is developing projects in Nigeria, Sierra-Leone, Zambia and Zimbabwe.